Seven days are now left in my stint at Alternative Worksite and I feel I have accomplished my goal of assimilating myself into what I, a PNWer, consider the ‘not so Southern’ Southern culture. Target shooting is my release from the artworld and art making; it is all that art is not and I’ve made the closest relationships with the employees at SafeSide Tactical and will miss them dearly. Gun culture is definitely a very sensitive subject for most and a subject I am very interested in. And in order to understand it I’ve tried to submerse myself in it as much as possible while here for I will be without it back in Canada.
I grew up in a small town similar to Roanoke; however, the hospitality here is second to none. Over various Uber rides and interactions and discussions with various patrons and citizens and employees and veterans, I garnered various viewpoints on our current cultural state that gave me a better understanding on the world we live in today.
Being at Alternative Worksite was truly an experience and being in Roanoke gave me the piece of mind to focus on making new work that I feel I would not have made otherwise (philosophical arguments aside).
Excerpt from novel:
It was the 7th inning stretch and I had been pitching in a state of lucidity throughout the entire game. They didn’t get on base once. Three up, three down, three up, three down. The score was something ridiculous like 24-0 or 25-0 and the only reason we were getting outs is because of our three weak batters, but no one was complaining. I got a bat boy to fix me up a juicy dog and he did a fine job of loading it with all the aforementioned fixin’s; I told him he was a good boy, I said “Hey boy, you’re good.” I sat in the corner and stared at my dog and I was looking into the bun and dog and could see right through them. I wasted my time and before I realized it I was being called back up to the mound so I put my hot dog on the ground in the dugout and hustled to the mound. Another three up, three down and I was excited to finally eat my dog but when I got back to the dugout I noticed it was covered with ants. Another 5 run inning went by and another three up, three down. It was our last at-bat and the guys agreed they had suffered enough of a defeat, the score was 33-0. It was my last inning on the mound and as the batters walked up to the plate I watched their already diminished morale sink even further into the void and vanish into thin air; their faces empty, lacking even the slightest ache for mercy. After all it was only just a game and a minor league one at that. After a a couple strikes they didn’t even stay in the box and were already making their way back to their dugout that was now empty. I threw my last strike and it was a real dirty slider. It was my first no hitter and I all I could think about was my ruined hotdog.
These are the final days of my third week at Alternative Worksite.
What has been most noticeable so far is the isolation of a small city. At first I felt the difficult nostalgia of my childhood - growing up somewhere small, rural, removed from my community. I miss that art world which is equally personal and professional, joyous and strange, my space that has developed in Chicago. Now, finally, I’m relishing empty days spent working in the studio. The solitude has left me reflective and it has brought with it the comfort of belonging to that other place.
We all live in a large house not far from downtown. We leave occasionally, but spend most days secluded in our workspaces. The shared space of the house is silent - I run into the other artists a few times per day in the kitchen, or at the door. On rare occasion, we share a meal together (this is a great treat).
I built a loom in the basement woodshop, and now I am preparing it to weave. I wind silk threads dyed cerulean, magenta, yellow and black, over and over, in precise order, denoted by the space where alternate colors cross into an X. These will be pulled out from the loom in an exacting order, decided by pixelated drafts I’ve collaged from images, drawings, and text. Each pixel will become a thread, looped over a metal rod, a jig over which I draw a blade to cut the loops down the center, making tufts. Once finished, these will be little panes of silk velvet nested in tool board panels.
I just finished up my last two weeks at the residency.
I found myself spending time with people and things I will miss when I’m gone - the residents, John the contractor, and the town. Abbey came to join the house, and John set up the new workshop downstairs. I made local friends at Sweet Donkey coffee shop and Enterprise car rental and spent time visiting the other residents in their studios. We went on a trip for a birds eye-view of Roanoke and I tried to do handstands.
It was also the weeks of peak fall. Some of us in the house are so wrapped up in it. The rate at which the leaves changed was extraordinary - In one to two weeks all changed from green to yellow, to red, and then began falling. It was energetic. Living in LA (also Jessi being from LA) we were so amused by this. Jessi and I were shocked one morning when all of the leaves by the back driveway had fallen off over night. Every single one in just one night. It felt really humbling.
I wrote quite a bit during this these last two weeks. Reflections of my time in Roanoke, of all I had learned and things I had been observing. I wrote about the inspiration I was finding in the middle class and places different from the big metropolitans I now live - recalling things of my childhood and Ohio upbringing. I wrote and reflected on my practice, worked on my website, and sent a little sculpture piece out for a show in Baltimore.
During this residency, I was able to look back on my year of work, and think really deeply about my practice. I feel so refocused in my practice now, it’s quite extraordinary. I had a really romantic time. A relearning of the leaves, of rain on a windshield, an investigation into a way of life I had long had forgotten. I made time in these last days to observe and notate all I could about this place, my time.
In the end, I had to pack up, box up, and set my studio back to scratch.
I’m lucky to be able to come back to the residency in December when we have our Open Studios.
I want to congratulate the residency on its first pilot program! My heart is full and I can’t wait to see what comes of the program. I was honored to be among its first residents.